Harnessing the Benefits of Sauna & Cold Therapy
Health, November 19, 2023
As a society we spend too much time at a constant temperature. Spending time at the extremes can have surprising holistic health benefits.
Long term sauna use has been linked with improved blood pressure, endothelial function, and ventricular function, all contributing to overall cardiac health. There are also links to sauna use and longevity. Heat stress (also induced by exercise) activates genes that produce Heat Shock Proteins (HSPs). These are critical to cellular health as they help maintain the integrity of other proteins within the cell. Another molecular pathway associated with lifespan is the activation of the Foxo3 gene. This gene acts as a master regulator of many genes involved in cellular resilience to various age related stresses. It protects against DNA damage. A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine showed the benefits of sauna use in regards to lowering the risk of fatal cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Other studies have shown improvement with other health issues such as diabetes, arthritis, and neurodegenerative disease.
When you combine immersion in cold water with the sauna heat to maximise wellbeing benefits even with the different effects on the system.
- Improved circulation - sauna leads to vasodilation (widening of blood vessels) increasing blood flow to skin and muscles. Cold causes vasoconstriction (narrowing of blood vessels). Alternating between sauna and cold can help with blood vessel pliability, and create a pump effect circulating oxygen and nutrients to tissues with alternation between skeletal muscle/skin and major organs.
- Enhanced recovery - Both the heat and cold helps with muscle recovery.Sauna helps reduce soreness, improved relaxation, and increases HSPs that protect cells from stress. Cold reduces inflammation, and helps minimise swelling. Using both heat and cold can facilitate the removal of waste products from muscles while promotion of tissue repair.
- Immune system stimulation - Combining sauna and cold therapy may have a synergistic effect on the immune system activation. Both stimulate immunity in different ways. Sauna increases the production of white blood cells, and cold activates the bodies stress response leading to the release of anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting compounds.
- Mental and cognitive benefits - Sauna is associated with relaxation, stress reduction, and improved mood while cold can provide a stimulating effect on the nervous system and promote alertness. The use of both modalities with relaxation and invigoration offers a more comprehensive mental experience. There is research can help with anxiety, mood improvement, and even assist with depression.
In conclusion, the combination of sauna and cold therapy offers a remarkable blend of benefits that positively impact both the body and mind. The complementary effects of these practices, such as reducing inflammation, enhancing performance, and promoting overall resilience and well-being, create a unique and powerful synergy. Personally, I can attest to the profound sense of contentment, relaxation, and laser focus that follows a session of sauna and cold exposure. By incorporating these practices into your routine, you can embark on a journey towards physical and mental optimization. Embracing this incredible habit can lead to improved health, enhanced performance, and a greater sense of well-being. So, why not explore the wonders of sauna and cold therapy and unlock their full potential for your holistic well-being?
Stay hydrated with an electrolyte drink to replenish minerals lost during the sweating.
Laukkanen, T et al, Association Between Sauna Bathing and Fatal Cardiovascular and All Cause Mortality Events, JAMA Intern Med. 2015;175(4):542-548. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.8187
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Josh, Todd, and myself enjoying a Sauna - Ice bath session